Tried-and-true ERP systems won top honors in the enterprise applications category of Datamation's 1998 Product of the Year poll, beating the up-and-coming applications that some analysts have been touting.
PeopleSoft 7.5 from ERP veteran PeopleSoft Inc., of Pleasanton, Calif., came in first with 276 votes (39%) out of the 706 votes cast in the Enterprise Applications category. This new version of the popular enterprise resource planning (ERP) package boasts many new features, including enhanced Internet functionality and workflow features.
Coming in a distant second with 158 votes (22%) was SAP R/3 Release 4 from ERP giant SAP AG, in Walldorf, Germany. Release 4 includes a feature that makes new upgrades easier to implement.
Just 11 votes behind R/3 Release 4 was Oracle Applications Release 11 (with 21%) from another ERP veteran, Oracle Corp., of Redwood Shores, Calif. Oracle Applications Release 11 allows users to operate the software via Web browsers on corporate intranets. One benefit of the Web approach is that it allows companies to save money on software deployment and administration.
And support is key, notes Colin Mahony, an analyst with The Yankee Group, of Boston. "What would prevent Apache from being in the enterprise might be the whole notion of support, but there's a feeling not much support is needed--this thing works," he says. "It's simple, scalable, and it runs."
Trailing Apache were such commercial products as Site Server 3.0 Commerce Edition from Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash, which received 161 votes, and webMethods B2B for R/3 from webMethods Inc., of Fairfax, Va., with 71 votes.
Falling far behind in the balloting were newer applications that provide "point solutions" in the supply chain and merchandise planning. Some analysts say those up-and-coming tools will soon capture users' hearts--if only the users will give them a chance.
"When we see another upgrade of an enterprise application like SAP, we don't consider it a big deal because although they have added new features, they are usually features that have already been done in best-of-breed solutions," says Larry Lapide, vice president and service director of the supply-chain strategies division at AMR Research Inc., in Boston. "But if you're an IT manager at a corporation, you're going to vote on what impacted your company. You probably haven't even seen some of the point solutions we think are really innovative."
The fourth-place finisher in the polling is the type of "innovative" product Lapide is talking about. IMS/Enterprise from MarketMAX Inc., of Danvers, Conn., which received 38 votes (5.4%), is often touted by analysts for its ability to help retailers increase profits from retail space. The software uses 3-D graphics to make the system appealing to merchandise planners. Early users have found that the product helps them increase margins as well as sales volumes and increase inventory returns, says Beth Enslow, senior analyst in the integrated logistics strategies group at Stamford, Conn.-based GartnerGroup Inc.
The fifth-place finisher, with 36 votes (5.1%), was Irving, Texas-based i2 Technologies Inc.'s Carrier Bid Optimizer, which, among other features, allows shippers to analyze their transportation needs and carriers to make the best use of equipment.
Eons ahead of itself
Carol Gernon, manager of financial systems at Entergy, a New Orleans-based global utility company offering power production, distribution operations, and related diversified services on five continents, says PeopleSoft 7.5 is eons ahead of PeopleSoft 5.1, which the company had been using until recently. The new software enables the company to automate the process by which it routes projects for approval. "We have found the new workflow feature to be very helpful for project costing," Gernon says.
Gernon also praises the budget module, which Entergy connects with Essbase, the database from Hyperion Solutions Corp., in Sunnyvale, Calif., for slicing and dicing of data. "It is much more flexible now and allows us to do more analysis of budget data," she says. "That was a major component improvement for us."
The next step for PeopleSoft is Internet functionality. "We're really looking forward to the Internet functionality PeopleSoft will allow our vendors," Gernon says. "We expect it to allow them to be able to look up invoices without calling us directly." She expects to be able to implement the new functionality in July.
Karen D. Schwartz is a freelance business and technology writer based in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at email@example.com.